Marketing to Seniors: Online Versus Offline Which media strategy should you use to attract leading-edge boomers and seniors? Two marketing experts suggest why one method may work better.

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In their book No B.S. Guide to Marketing to Leading-Edge Boomers and Seniors, marketing experts Dan S. Kennedy and Chip Kessler offer small-business owners a handy guide to targeting the leading-edge boomer and senior market. In this edited excerpt, the authors discuss why you need to keep the focus on offline marketing for your boomer and senior prospects.

Marketers are understandably eager to abandon offline media in favor of online media. Many marketers are also greatly influenced by advertising and marketing agency leaders and "gurus." Unfortunately, the actual experience of people most successfully selling to leading-edge boomers and seniors, as well as the facts obtained from close examination of their results, commands us to stay focused on, and to weight our marketing investments to, offline media.

Here are some very telling facts, drawn from thorough research done in 2011 by an outside, objective team of analysts for a multimillion-dollar producer in the financial services field who markets to modestly affluent to very affluent boomer and senior clients. The analysts interviewed clients to determine how they were sourced and how the financial firm first came to their attention and garnered their interest.

Thirty-four percent cited word of mouth -- conversations with family, friends or peers -- out of which came a proactive referral. Nearly the same percentage -- 33 percent -- cited the firm's offline media advertising and direct mail for its public, educational seminars and workshops, prompting attendance as response. Another 15 percent cited the firm's non-event-related media exposure, including advertising on radio and TV and in newspapers. Significantly, not one person surveyed cited any online media as the starting point of their move to a relationship with the firm. No one. Nada. Zero.

Related: Three Steps to More Word-of-Mouth -- and More Business

Arguably, if a marketing effort produces zero responses, it deserves zero percent of your resources. Of course, that would be overly extreme because some online presence is essential for credibility if and when potential clients go online, and for the media.

But to invest in online media as if it was a productive driver of new business is, based on these facts, foolhardy. This cautionary note is not just for those in financial services, but for many kinds of professionals and service providers marketing to boomers and seniors. I know this flies in the face of a lot of statistics about the rapid growth of leading-edge boomers and seniors using online and social media and is contrary to what you will hear from all the online media. But statistics are often not useful facts. For example, the majority of seniors and many leading-edge boomers has been driven to social media to stay in touch with their adult kids, grandkids and distant friends. They do not go to the internet to find services and professional assistance, and they're resistant to having their data harvested and obviously used to direct advertising messages to them.

Related: 7 Ways You're Wasting Time and Don't Even Know It

As for search marketing, in which marketers invest untold sums of money, time and energy to stay at the top of search engine results, it has one very severe flaw: It requires potential clients to actually be in search of the marketers' product or service. Most of the clients I have make most of their money "knocking on the doors" (via direct media) of people not yet actively seeking what they offer or who are even unaware it exists.

If you re-examine the results from the financial services firm's survey of productive sources of its clients, you'll see just where and how to allocate your resources and focus your energies. Thirty-four percent of the firm's business came from word-of-mouth recommendations and referrals. This suggests that 34 percent of your resources ought to be invested in encouraging and rewarding that client activity, including new client welcome gift packages, monthly newsletters, special reports offered to clients via the newsletters, periodic client appreciation events, formal referral reward programs, and seasonal gifting.

Thirty-three percent of the firm's business came from the advertising of and attendance at public, educational seminars and workshops. This suggests at least 33 percent of resources be directed there The combined 34 percent and 33 percent suggest great emphasis be placed on getting present clients to invite and bring guests to these events. Fifteen percent of the clients came from media advertising and media publicity, on radio, on TV, and in newspapers. This tells us where 15 percent of our resources should be invested.

Related: Is the End Near for Traditional Advertising?

Google, YouTube, Facebook, et al., are powerful tools as well as fascinating toys, and they have their genuinely useful roles in marketing, and they and the next generation of online media that replace them are inarguably the future. But, contrary to Gen X and Millennials' beliefs, they have not just yet changed the world.

If you are to successfully market to leading-edge boomers and seniors, you must remain aware of and sensitive to their preferences for receiving information, strengthening relationships and advertising outreach. You must collect and consider the facts about their true behavior as consumers. You must resist the lure of the brightest, shiniest objects, and the seduction of mystics who love and promote them, instead insisting on what works.

Wavy Line

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